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The Amanda Burden Open Space Award sets a new standard; could the Atlantic Yards plaza be a "signature public space"?

The Urban Land Institute (ULI), a developer-led organization, this year gave its first Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award, named for and supported by the Chairperson of New York City's Department of City Planning. (The brochure is embedded below.)

The winner: Campus Martius Park in Detroit, described as "heart of downtown Detroit’s development story and its signature public space. Surrounded by offices, residential space, and restaurants, it is a magnet for everyday visitors and high-profile events."

Would the Atlantic Yards plaza serve similarly? I doubt it.

A New York finalist

One of the finalists, by the way, was from New York: Herald and Greeley Square Parks, two triangular open spaces that form a “bowtie” at Broadway and Sixth Avenue at 34th Street.

The citation states:
Upon their reopening in summer 1999, Herald and Greeley Square parks had a dramatic effect: each was immediately regarded as an urban jewel, widely used and cherished by the neighborhood’s office workers, shoppers, and tourists.
The brochure
Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award Brochure

The announcement

The awards program was announced in January via a press release issued by the Urban Land Institute:
An awards program to recognize excellence in the design and development of urban public open spaces has been created by the Urban Land Institute (ULI) through the generosity of Amanda M. Burden, Chair of the New York City Planning Commission and Director of the New York Department of City Planning, and 2009 laureate of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development.

The ULI Amanda Burden Urban Open Space Award recognizes and rewards an outstanding example of a public destination that has enriched and revitalized its surrounding community. The first winner of the award will be announced at ULI’s Spring Council Forum, set for April 14-16, 2010 in Boston. A $10,000 cash prize will be awarded to the individual or organization most responsible for the creation of the winning open space project.

The award is illustrative of Ms. Burden’s strong belief in the power of well-designed public spaces to serve both as gathering places accessible to all citizens as well as catalysts for economic development.

...“It has been my life’s work to celebrate the essence of city life and to create great public open spaces,” said Ms. Burden. “All great planning comes down to the granular approach of how a building meets the street, how a street feels, how you feel walking in the city and coming to public spaces that are inviting. Public space is why you stay in the city.”

The creation of the open space award immediately followed the announcement in October 2009 of Ms. Burden being selected as the winner of the ULI J.C. Nichols Prize. The prize, awarded annually by ULI, recognizes a person whose career demonstrates a commitment to the highest standards of responsible development. The prize includes a $100,000 honorarium, which, at Ms. Burden’s suggestion, ULI has devoted to an annual award honoring transformative and exciting public open spaces.
Projects must be at least 10,000 square feet and open to the public for at least one year and no more than ten years.

Should those behind the Atlantic Yards plaza--the interim substitute for the promised Urban Room--wish to enter, they'd have to wait a year.

And it would have to prove itself as "an inviting, sociable place," which has "transformed surrounding neighborhoods and communities for the better," and be "worthy of emulation."

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